Early Days

Horse Down in the Trailer

Unfortunately, the dressage, stadium, and XC recaps are not the end of the story of our weekend show experience…

For the record, I believe in miracles. And you will too shortly if you don’t already.

Leaving the show grounds in Temecula, my barn mate TK (who was trailering us) graciously said that she would unload my horse and I could go home with my husband instead of go back to the barn with her and her boyfriend in the truck. I appreciatively accepted, and stuck around the showgrounds just long enough to ensure they posted my XC scores correctly (quickly learning my lesson from the issue with the stadium penalties).

Unfortunately my cell phone got put in the trailer’s tack room (alas, the risk of having people help you put things away rather than doing it yourself) so I had to go the barn in any case and wait for the trailer. And good thing I did.

They pulled in with the truck and trailer. It was dark and raining. TK went to unclip her horse George from the trailer tie to attach her lead rope, when she frantically ran to the back of the trailer while shouting “Quick! Get it open!”

Her horse was down, lying underneath the separator bar of the slant load trailer, with the hind half of his body underneath Hemie – between his front legs and back legs. George’s halter was still connected to the trailer tie so his head was up the air.

TK got the back of the trailer door open, Hemie carefully stepped out, and TK grabbed him. I jumped in the trailer to try and get her horse out. George tried getting up but hit the separator bar. I said “Easy boy, just wait” and amazingly, he did.

I got the bar free and opened, and George patiently got up. No thrashing, just got up normally. His halter hook snapped from the trailer tie, and he calmly backed himself out of the trailer. I let go of the bar and grabbed him. He just stood there, alert but quiet.

TK was completely in panic mode, so I took the lead in the situation. George’s front right standing wrap had come mostly undone, so I had her take it off while I held him by his broken halter. Then I walked him out for a minute or two. He had a small hitch in his step – front right. I felt up his leg and it definitely had some bumps. We called the vet.

Inside the trailer, the triangle feeder was broken on the right side clip. It looks like maybe George pawed, somehow got the wrap stuck on the feeder, scrambled and slipped and fell down, and of course wasn’t able to get back up.

George has some bumps and scrapes and a swollen knee. Its too soon to tell if there is any lasting damage. But the miracle is that he’s not so much worse. Lots of horses colic from the stress and shock alone. Furthermore, Hemie was completely unscathed. The vet had us check and re-check Hemie’s legs – apparently in situations like that, the down horse scrambles and kicks out in trying to get up, and ends up really hurting the other horse’s legs.

I don’t wrap Hemie’s legs for trailer rides, but I am seriously reconsidering that. I come from the school of thought that bandages getting caught or slipping are some of the more common trailering issues (possibly the cause of this issue, even). But right now the idea of protecting his legs is really resonating. But I’d want to do it with super strong cross-country boots such as the axe-proof Ecogolds. Does anyone else use heavy duty XC boots for trailering? Is that even a good idea?

At the end of the day, George is recovering, but both TK and I keep commenting to each other how lucky we are – how it could have been so much worse than it was. I’m very glad that both George and Hemie have enough sense that they didn’t hurt themselves from scrambling and freaking out in that situation, the way that other horses might have.  Give your ponies an extra kiss tonight!

13 comments on “Horse Down in the Trailer

  1. That's so scary!! Trailer accidents are so awful, so glad both of your boys came out ok. And extra pats to both of them for keeping their cool!!!


  2. Holy mackerel, that's terrifying. I've handled some not-great trailering situations but nothing like that. I'm so glad Hemie is ok and George is recovering!

    I do not boot for the trailer, but if I were to do so I'd get proper shipping boots. The most common cuts/problems occur in places that the typical XC boot would not protect – fetlock, pastern, coronet band. Think about the vulnerable spots in a horse that's in the situation that George and Hemie were in, and they're not necessarily the same as a horse going XC.


  3. Yikes!! Glad they both kept their brains in their heads. Hopefully George turns out ok!


  4. That is so scary. Hope George is okay…I boot in Back on Track quick wraps. They are not as bulky as shipping boots, they velcro making for easy on/off, and they stay on.


  5. So scary, but I would think it would be a PSA to not wrap in the trailer ever.


  6. Scary! Glad both horses came out safely.


  7. Geez, good thing both horses held their cool, speaks to what good boys they are. Trailering is nerve-racking to me.


  8. Aye!!! I'm glad everyone is ok any nothing worse happened! Defiantly had some angels watching over your boys!!


  9. I've seen it go both ways. I live about 6 hours from the closest event, but most people in the state haul to CA, so 10-15 hours. One of the big eventing barns refuses to put anything on the horses' legs for fear of injury. The other always ships in shipping boots. I'd only advise wrapping if you're really, really good at it, because your horse is getting hot on a trailer for so long.

    C-rage goes naked on the trailer, but that's because he's not great with boots and we've only hauled very short distances so far.


  10. Scary! I'm glad neither horse was terribly injured.


  11. I don't wrap my horses' legs either, Sarah. I don't want anything loose or hanging in the trailer stall. I am also a staunch believer in the Blocker Tie ring for the very situation you described. If a horse goes down, the tie ring will allow the horse to free his head so that he's not hanging. I am also VERY careful about hay bags and such as they can cause hang ups.

    The moral of the story is that traveling with an 1100 pound animal, no matter how it is done, has a potential for danger. We just try to minimize the risks for each individual horse, and drive as safely as we can. I am glad that the situation turned out as simple as it did. best of luck to your friend and her horse.


  12. I always use shipping boots…no matter how close or far I go. I had my horse do the same thing, as in slip and fall under my other horse (but he was being an idiot in the trailer that's why).

    I think this is more of a warning to not keep things in front of the horses in the trailer. From my experience though, shipping boots are always better than wraps. I have the Rambo ones and they are great.


  13. So glad to hear it didn't turn out worse! I too am obsessed with safety ties in the trailer.. I had a rather fractious pony in my youth who did her best to teach me lots of lessons about what can go wrong hauling… (ugh). I am a firm believer in Standing wraps. I wrap something between a typical standing wrap and a true Pony Club Shipping wrap so that my horse's fetlocks and heels are relatively protected from strikes. I have never had a wrap come loose when hauling before, though I do add a ring of masking tape around the top for long hauls. I like the extra support (especially for long hauls) and peace of mind that they have some protection from thrashing. Most leg injuries I've seen are from scrambling and either hitting part of the trailer or stepping on themselves.

    I have had bad experience with “shipping boots” so I definitely prefer to wrap, though I know it's a pain and not everyone is great at applying them. I also live in a very mild climate so overheating is rarely a concern..

    No matter how often I do it, trailering always puts me on edge a bit!!!


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